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The Red Word by Sarah Hen­stra (Tramp Press, ap­prox €14.99, out now) is the au­thor’s first adult out­ing. Hen­stra uses the poignant set­ting of a mid-1990s Ivy League col­lege cam­pus to ex­am­ine cul­tural mythol­ogy and how it might im­bue our daily be­hav­iour. Cana­dian stu­dent Karen be­comes em­broiled with mem­bers of a soror­ity-bash­ing, fra­ter­nity-loathing fem­i­nist group while liv­ing in an off-cam­pus house, nick­named Raghurst. To stand out, she dates Mike, a mem­ber of a no­to­ri­ous fra­ter­nity, Gemma Beta Chi. Word gets out that fel­low fra­ter­nity mem­ber Bruce Com­fort has got­ten a girl preg­nant and re­fuses to ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity, so Raghurst ring­leader Dyann de­cides to drug or “roofie” the en­tire fra­ter­nity at a party. But af­ter a woman ends up gang-raped af­ter ac­ci­den­tally con­sum­ing the drug, ru­mours spread like wild­fire over what ex­actly hap­pened – and who com­mit­ted the as­sault. Hen­stra uses Greek myths to ex­plore sex­u­al­ity, de­bauch­ery, power dy­nam­ics and misog­yny with sen­si­tive and sharp writ­ing – and a keen un­der­stand­ing of what is a com­plex sub­ject mat­ter.

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